Rebecca Longman

Meet the amazing Rebecca Longman, who participated in the VACorps program in 2019. Rebecca studies Biopsychology, Cognition, Neuroscience at the University of Michigan, and participated in an internship at a community health clinic in Cape Town. In this alumni interview, Rebecca shares some of the highlights from her internship experience in South Africa.

Why did you decide to participate in the VACorps program? 

I aim to either go to med school or grad school in the future, and my internship with VACorps allowed me to get amazing work experience in an entirely new cultural environment. My work in Cape Town was very inspiring and solidified my future career choice.

How would you describe Cape Town to someone who has never travelled here before?

Absolutely incredible. There is never a dull moment in Cape Town. It has everything you could possibly want: shopping, beaches, mountains, food, etc. I can guarantee that no matter what you are hoping to find in Cape Town, you will find it and be entirely impressed.

Tell us about the work you did at your internship site. 

I worked as a nurse’s assistant at Retreat Community Health Centre. My main job was doing whatever would help the nurses save time. They are so incredibly busy so just doing paperwork or fetching prescriptions for them was very rewarding. I also helped direct patients, clean patient beds, help measure and weigh babies, and take blood pressure of a lot of patients. It was so incredible being able to help with family visits to the hospital and see a lot of newborn babies. Overall I was inspired by the amount of work each and every nurse I worked with accomplished in a single day.

What were the highlights of your internship experience in Cape Town?

Getting to know the nurses I worked with was amazing. They are all such hard-working women who deserve to be hailed as heroes. I got to work a lot with babies as well which was super fun for me because I previously did not have a ton of experience working with babies. Outside of work, I made friends with so many amazing people through VACorps that I still stay in touch with today.

What were some of your favorite aspects of South African culture? 

It is different from America in that the people you meet are much more relaxed and open. Everyone is friendly and inviting in Cape Town. The food is on another level, I tried an ostrich braai during my time in South Africa and I still think about a lot. The shared sense of adventure and family that you get from the culture of South Africa makes it such an amazing place.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d like to give to future VACorps interns?

I learned that I want to try and help as many people as the nurses in Cape Town do in my future job. I learned that I am willing to be open to new experiences no matter how crazy they seem (I went bungee jumping).

What have you learned about yourself through this experience?

Try everything. It may seem like you have a long time, but there is so much to experience that I would recommend making the most out of every single day. Do every hike, try every restaurant, meet every person where you work and in your house.

Any predictions for what we can expect from you in 10 year’s time? 

I hopefully will graduate from medical school and be practicing psychiatry. I also hope I will be able to continue traveling around the world, meeting new people, and being inspired by their stories. I definitely expect to come back to South Africa, I miss it there so much.